This is a story that deals with the battle of power and dysfunction. Some other words you can throw into this story is impatience, self-sabotage and insecurity. Not to many sports teams fit this mold more than the Sacramento Kings. Since the 2005-06 season, the franchise and it’s fans haven’t even seen as much as a resemblance of hope.
That was, up until last season where the Kings were in contention for a playoff spot. Even during the DeMarcus Cousins years, they haven’t been this close to making the playoffs. Dave Joerger was hired to get this team a playoff spot, and might I say he almost did it. Joerger wasn’t brought in with the easiest of expectations. He had Cousins for half a season before Vlade Divac traded him to the New Orleans Pelicans. What looked like a chance to take a superstar to the playoffs turned into him starting from scratch.
And to Joerger’s credit, he did it the best way he could. He coached this team hard and brought out the potential in guys like Buddy Hield, DeAaron Fox, Marvin Bagley and others. That 2017-18 season was rough, but of course it was. He had a weird mix of players, but still managed 27 wins which wasnt too much of a drop-off.
That 2018-19 season is when things changed. Fox and Hield took off, having great statistical jumps across the board. Hield was hitting three-pointers at a crazy clip and Fox was a clutch performer. Bogdan Bogdanovic became a huge piece in the team’s style of play as well. Bagley was making himself well known as a solid rookie. He even saved Imam Shumpert’s career. The Kings missed the playoffs and finished 39-43, but things were finally heading in the right direction.
And just like that, Joerger is fired. He missed the playoffs for the third straight year. The impatience by Divac and that front office kicked in, and just like that it was over. They hire Luke Walton to be their 10th head-coach in 15 years. Franchises that don’t have a culture of winning, grow impatient and crave power do this. Getting rid of a coach after taking this young team the distance in your third-year should make Divac sign him immediately. Joerger made a horrible situation into a pretty tolerable/solid one, and Divac kicks him to the curb.
What’s even more embarrassing is the replacement, someone who couldn’t coach LeBron James and Lakers to the playoffs. Walton substitute-coached the best team in the NBA for half a season, and teams clamored to him. Is it because of his last name? Possibly. But Walton stepped into a situation that was going upward and immediately set it on fire. They started the season 0-5 and haven’t seen a winning record yet. And sure, Fox and Bagley have missed a good portion of games this year, but with them back they still haven’t won any games.
Vlade Divac set a standard for the Kings when they fired Joerger & hired Walton; make the playoffs in 2020.
That's their top priority. There's no reverting back to a talent development focus.
With the state of the West, I fear a regrettable, short-term move attempt coming.
— Matt George (@MattGeorgeKHTK) January 14, 2020
This is where Divac comes in as the biggest problem, he truly has reached James Dolan levels of horrific. His insecurity has truly made one bad decision after another. Instead of riding out Joerger who may have challenged the front-office, but was turning this thing around, he fired him. He claimed he wasn’t desperate to make the playoffs, but fired him based off not making the playoffs.
Divac was ridiculed so badly because of the Cousins trade that he claimed “if we don’t get better in two years, I will step-down.” Joerger did just that, and he thanks him by firing him. It is truly, one of the most-boggling things I have seen an executive do.
Walton since taking over has the team at 15-26, and everybody’s games have suffered. Hield is at the fore-front of this, shooting well below his averages the two-seasons prior. He went from 42 percent from three, to 35 percent. Fox is missing a good portion of his three’s as well, down to 31 percent. There is no system here, Walton never had to implement a system. There is no excuse this year, especially with how the Western Conference has shaped up this season. The eighth seed is wide-open, and the Kings still technically have a chance. They’re only four games back, but the players don’t seem to energized to go play anymore. The eight-game losing streak from December 17th to December 31st proves that to be true. Dewayne Dedmon and Trevor Ariza don’t even have roles at this point.
There was an excitement to this Sacremento team last season. The youth and star-potential in Hield, Fox, Bagley, Bogdanovic and others has been wiped away. Walton has taken the positives of everyone’s games and made sure they never show. Divac panicked and fired a coach the players ultimately liked and responded to. That’s the Kings for you though, when things start going in the right direction you make sure you self-sabotage the situation. Divac’s obsession to prove his decisions have put the Kings back to where they started, and I’m not sure if the players can be saved.